Oak Ridges Moraine 400

From Kathy Brouse:

It is a given that all randonneurs laugh and joke and tease one another about our participation in this extreme sport. The distances are so excruciatingly long, the discomfort so intense, why oh why when we could be socializing, shopping, gardening, spending time with family, do we turn away from simple pleasures and sign up for a 400 km challenge, one of the hardest club rides. Why do we take off at 6am prepared to be in the saddle all day and most of the night? Is it normal, is this sane behaviour or does the obsessive pursuit of the series, the medal, the qualifying rides make us lose perspective sometimes?

You see I am pondering these philosophical questions this morning because yesterday I crossed a line, from the wacky to just plain nuts, yup I went there yesterday, to the dark side. I have officially  joined the group who cycle 200km brevets in the winter, in the snow, yes they have also crossed this line. My line was the Oak Ridges Moraine 400. I headed out with a group of 10 randonneurs yesterday morning, the forecast was not good, rain beginning at around 11am and settling in. I told myself I would enjoy a fast hard run to Orangeville, some good hill training and then I would head home as the rain set in. Which meant I would have to do the other 400 km in a few weeks in order to get my PBP qualifying rides done, something I did not want to do as I have other plans that weekend. But, as it turned out, the weather was great for cycling, a little cloud, a little sun, nothing unpleasant. So I kept going, despite the fact that I had ditched my warmer gear in my car- because I was coming back when the rain started.

But the weather was nice to Orangeville and then to Sharon. It did torrential rain for about 4 or 5 minutes in Sharon while we were snacking, but then it cleared and it was nice again. As I carried on I was even wishing I had purchased sunscreen at the Sharon control. And it stayed nice until 5:30 when it started to rain, but not heavily, while enroute to the control in Stouffville at 7:30. When Arthur and I left the Mr. Sub in Stouffville wearing all the layers we had, even a garbage bag cut out for my head and arms and newspaper stuffed down my front, it started to pour. It wasn’t pretty, it was horrible, it was that type of rain and wind that hits you in the face like a hundred little painful needles. And it poured like that for the rest of the ride. At the last control in Oak Ridges we purchased yoga towels ($30. plus tax) a piece to wrap around our core and more garbage bags to keep us warm and this did provide some relief. My feet and my hands were so cold throughout the night I couldn’t feel them and by the time we got to the home stretch, the only relief was climbing those hills on Old Base Line because the effort brought some warmth.

Arthur and I pulled into the Tim Horton’s at 4:40 am. We couldn’t talk, my mouth would no longer move to form words and my voice was just a raspy whisper at that point, too hard to talk. The relief of sitting in the warm car was intense but the short drive back to my place in Oakville was challenging, kept falling asleep and driving on the wrong side of the road. Fortunately, these are country roads and it was quiet, but I was driving like a very drunk person. I don’t know how Arthur managed to drive back to the city, I hope he rested and set out when he was ready to drive safely. I don’t know about the other people on the ride. Michael T and Smiling were ahead of us and must of made it back as, we did not see any bodies on the road in the last 100 km stretch. I hope the others made it back safely and that they will contact me because I am concerned, especially Charles because he was riding on his own most of the day, last seen at the Sharon control.

Thank you Arthur for sharing the suffering yesterday and for letting me wear your leg  warmers. He was sensible enough to pack boots and rain pants but would have been warmer if he had not handed over his leg warmers to me. You are a true friend, many thanks. The silver lining to all this is the completion of the 400km qualifying ride, all done now, yippee! The dark side is the positive proof that I crossed a line yesterday and this sport has made me lose perspective on decisions that affect my health and safety. A more sensible person (not a randonneur:-) would have turned back at Sharon (but, it was the second control, almost half the ride done) or phoned a friend to bring them home.

Now I have the Simcoe Cottage 600 to look forward to next weekend, the big ride in black bear country but we will all be safe because Liz is bringing her super duper bear spray. She says she will fend off the bear while we take off and wait for her down the road. Clearly nothing nuts about Lizzie, just a normal girl who enjoys to wrestle with black bears on a group ride!

Frosty 200 … It’s Not White

I decided to ride the Huron Chapter’s Frosty 200 as a permanent this past Saturday. The one and only previous time this one ran was in late January 2011. I remember driving down the 401 in the dark, towards Tillsonburg, hardly being able to see out the windshield due to blowing snow. Combined with a temperature of minus 10, I couldn’t help but start laughing and almost questioning my sanity. Since I’d already ridden with Carey Chappelle and Dick Felton, I knew that I was in good company and we would be forming a happy band of idiots. Also joining in was Brian Brideau (early preparation for the snows of the Great Divide), Dave “Hammy” Pearson (riding with full gearing in the days before indexed shifting became incomprehensible to him) and Jacob Ner (on a bike Friday).

We all met in the lobby of Tillsonburg Arena and pretended that this was a great idea. I started the 2015 version by myself in bright sunshine and cool but not glacial temps. But not white. It was interesting actually seeing the sights once I got out of town. If there were 5 other riders with me I would have been able to see them as well. With a fairly strong SW wind it was work starting out riding both west and south towards the lake. Really? I probably wasn’t moving a whole lot faster than the first time. But not white. There are surprisingly a lot of hills in this flat part of the country. Not long but short steep kickers. I passed the spot where Dick (who was riding a fixie) had to convert his bike to a single speed with a free wheel after doing his impression of a gerbil while slipping and sliding down the hills. Further on I remembered the hill where I realized that having fenders on wasn’t such a great idea since they kept getting jammed up with ice. Felt like pedalling with the brakes on all day. I had to kick out the ice every 10 or 20 km at times. The spot where Carey ran into someone and bent the forks of his mountain bike straight back. He fell down since his seat was so high he couldn’t get off easily. He forgot his seat and post so had to borrow one that didn’t quite fit properly and had to be hammered down not nearly far enough. The joke all day was whether we would need a surgeon or the Jaws of Life to remove the seat from his ass at the end of the ride. I’ve seen the same bike still unused in his garage with the indentation from his prostate still evident on the seat. This was all on the way to the first control in Port Burwell. Glen Steen met us there and exchanged all of our frozen water bottles with bottles with flowable liquid. He did this at every control. It was hard to drink anyway since I was afraid to take one hand of the handlebar due to the ice. I started this ride thinking that maybe I’d put in a good time under 9 hours but quickly threw that idea away in the wind. Since it was time to relax, I decided to go down to the dock to have a look at the old submarine Port Burwell is so proud of. While walking around and checking it out I was joined by an old guy who became my guide. While admiring it I asked him if they planned on painting it soon since it showed a lot of rust to which he replied that they want to keep it authentic. I said that authenticity still rusts out and eventually sinks. He didn’t seem too interested in talking anymore. Another great friendship aborted I guess. After having a quick bite to eat at the control restaurant it was time to ride again. Quick turnaround time of 55 min. Pretty much set the tone for the rest of the day. Still not white.

I thought that I might have a nice tailwind along the lake to the next two control stops of Port Rowan and Port Dover. Nope. Swirling at best. Get up to a decent speed and up comes a 2 or 3 minute gust to put me back into my place. Rode down the road which had a foot or two of snow last time. Took a half hour last time but 5 or 10 minutes this time. Not white. Last time we arrived in Port Dover looking forward to a steak and a beet in the Norfolk Tavern but we only had about 5 or 10 minutes before the control closed. Bag of chips and a swig of unfrozen water delivered by Glen. This time though I asked myself what would Carey do now with time to spare? Time for a pint. The tavern was full of leather clad bikers so I fit right in. The bartender asked me if I was with the band (free beer?). I must have had that ruffled just got out of bed at three o’clock look about me. I walked up to the bar, squeezed in and ordered a pint of Keith’s and a veggie wrap. How’s that for blending in? Thought about another but remembered the headwind all the way back to Tillsonburg. While I was getting my bike, near the patio, a bikerish waitress asked me what I was doing and was clearly awestruck and mesmerized by such a specimen as myself. The guy beside her wasn’t. He mumbled something about him being able to do it to which I said “not in a million” judging by the humongous gut hanging over his Harley belt. I rode away pretty quick. Still not white.

The ride west was taxing but it was still good to be able to see the sights. Not white. Or dark. I even took a wrong turn and had to backtrack at the same corner we screwed up at last time. The Tim Hortons, in Delhi, control brought back memories of being tired and not a lot of talking going on due to frozen lips. Even sat in the same seat. The nostalgia was carrying me away. The last control was in Brown’s Restaurant on the way back to T-Burg and was open this time. Glen signed the cards in the dark beside the road last time. This was after having us turn east when all we wanted to do is ride west and finish. I remember last time having to take my tinted ski goggles off to see at night and feeling my eyeballs start to freeze or the eyelids freeze shut. After arriving back at the arena in Tillsonburg, I was able to find an arena guy who opened up a hockey dressing room so I could have a shower. So what if it was the women’s. I’ve been there before. Ask Liz. Last time we did the same thing. Dick even took his bike in the shower with him. I showered quickly to give them the privacy they needed. All in all it’s a great route and thanks to Glen Steen for putting it together. Still not sure I’d want to do it again in January though.


Out and about in Simcoe County

For anyone who was out on a bicycle this past weekend…..they would know what a great couple of days for cycling it was!

Simcoe Chapter routes are definitely ones to rave about – thanks to those who came out to enjoy the back to back 200 and 300. Going around Lake Simcoe on Sunday made it feel like we were in the heart of summer – the beaches we cycled along were packed with swimmers, sunbathers and families enjoying beach activities. Linda and I can also happily report that there were opportunities for ice cream (although maybe not as soon as we would have liked), and even a Dairy Queen in Keswick! The folks from Windsor area said it was definitely worth the drive. Randy Akins is a Barrie local and has been enjoying these routes as training rides – lucky guy!

One crazy thing that happened to me was that as I was coming down a “double hill”, just cresting and going into the second descent, there was a racoon making its way across the road. In that split second, (and now I truly understand why they call it a “split” second – it goes so fast), everything happened at once. It would have been best for both of us if the racoon had just let me zoom on by, but…..no, the racoon made a bolt. He ran into my front wheel and down I went, but not before running over him with my rear wheel. With a lot of snarling and hissing (racoon cursing?) he went into the bushes and then went quiet. I did not bother to investigate. Just then Arthur and Jerzey came along and Arthur offered me some antiseptic wipes to clean up the road rash on my knee and leg. Arthur has been carrying this emergency First Aid kit for 3 years and he was happy that finally it proved not to be in vain! As for me, once again I feel very fortunate that the outcome was not worse. I am not sure about the outcome for that racoon.

Liz Overduin

Sunshine 1200 Brevet

I have never heard a Randonneur say how much they loved a 1200 km brevet from beginning to the end as much as Chris Cossonnet did on the Sunshine 1200. Today he sent me an e-mail saying how excited he is about doing the 600 next week-end! It’s like he was born for this sport! Chris and I got along GREAT during the ride, no problem staying together and taking turns leading. For me it was from 12-4pm and Chris led from 8pm-12am regularly. His GPS was finally working perfectly and he loved having it. Scenery … INCREDIBLE! We went to Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville in Key West for a Cheeseburger and a Margarita the day before the event.

Jimmy Buffet's Place_1024

Met a number of the Randonneurs from Japan, California, Texas, Florida, Scotland, Australia, Quebec etc., The ride started at 4am, so we got up at 0230 and went for breakfast at a Denny’s. There we met a number of other Randonneurs. After breakfast we headed to the Southernmost Point in the Continental U.S.A. for the Official Start!


The ride up from Key West to Miami was breathtaking! The bike lane was plenty big enough to keep everyone comfortable with traffic. Surrounded by water and watching the Sun come up … Awesome!


Once we were inland, we dropped in on a Randonneur being picked off the road and taken to the hospital after running into the back wheel of another rider and crashing. I called Dick Felton to let him know the story and asked him to send a Volunteer to pick up the Randonneur’s bicycle. Entering Miami, we were on bike lanes until we got downtown, then we joined the regulars on the road to Miami Beach … Awesome!


Today, my goal is to take Donna and Erika to Miami for a week and head to Key West for 2 days … I LOVED IT THAT MUCH! Chris and I met a Randonneur from Quebec who was doing this 1200. He didn’t speak English, so Chris was the one who communicated with him. This individual got lost in Miami, DNF as he missed the closing time for the Control in Northern Miami and found no one who spoke French when he was trying to find his way. He called a Taxi and then unexpectedly a couple of Volunteers found him and offered him a ride to Daytona (next Control). He said No because he had a Taxi on the way to pick him up. $230 US later, he was in Daytona! Chris and I also met a Gentlemen from Australia who was doing this 1200 and told us how much he enjoyed being there. We had dinner with him and the Quebec’or the day before we went from Fort Myers to Key West. The Gentlemen and I discussed the importance of drinking enough water but not too much during an event like this but somehow he disappeared north of Miami and was found on the front lawn of someone’s home …the Lady called police who eventually called an ambulance to come pick this guy up … he didn’t know where he came from or where he was going. Dave Thompson sent an e-mail out letting us know his wife had flown to Florida to join her hubby and wanted anyone who rode with him to provide some answers … All of this happened in the first 430km, the sunshine and heat was having an effect on everyone, 35oC and higher all the way! Chris and I purchased Arm Protectors (from the sun) and made sure we put on lots of Suntan Lotion where ever our skin was exposed. Everyone knows the infamous Bill Olsen, the Randonneur who completed 8 1200s last year! Chris enjoyed meeting Bill and we stayed together for a few hours before Bill dropped off the back.


How HOT was it? … Bill eventually called it a day and headed back to New Jersey. In the evening and later the first night we were able to find padded chairs and couches along the way to grab the odd 15-30 minute nap. Just to let you know … I am totally a Wool Jersey FAN!!! A number of Randonneurs and Volunteers asked Chris and I, if these were too hot to be wearing and the answer was NO. We each carried an extra water bottle to shower ourselves when we were feeling the heat; the Wool Jerseys maintained the moisture for 1/2hr to 45 minutes, compared to the regular cycling jersey which stayed cool for 10 minutes at the most! Chris only had 3 Wool Jerseys so wore the regular cycling jerseys for the last two days and confirmed how much hotter they were! Of course feeling great in this HEAT had a teasing effect, every time “Larry” a Volunteer drove by us or saw us at a Control he would yell Bha..Bha..Bha..! I had thought the ride from just north of Daytona back to Fort Myers would be boring and not very scenic … I was totally wrong!

Rolling hills, Great little towns to pedal through and friendly people all along the way. Chris and I left the route in one small town to visit a Coffee Shop / Bakery … WOW!


We returned to the route and headed towards Fort Myers. There was a stretch 14miles long through a National Park … no vehicles allowed! Just a warning!!


At the last Hotel before the final day, Chris and I took 4.5hrs to sleep then hit the road. Just leaving town, we noticed a couple on a mattress … in some front yard …hugging each other and watching the sun come up! I asked Chris if he thought that was a Secret Control!

I don’t know if it’s just me, but this 1200 was AWESOME!!! I can’t wait to do it again! FLORIDA – I now know how beautiful this State actually is!!


Carey Chappelle


The Creemore Classic 400 Brevet

Aka Bikes, Bowling, Beers and Bank Machines

Last weekend saw two ESR Rando riders join 6 other starters in Port Elgin for the annual Creemore Classic 400 km Brevet.

The forecast said 80% chance of rain, and this time the weatherman got it right. But really, the rain was light and sporadic. Nice lunch in Owen Sound at 100 km was followed by a screaming descent into Beaver Valley and a long climb up into Eugenia at 170 km.

It was at the start of this climb that Sean from Hamilton failed to unclip quickly enough and toppled onto his hip. We’ve all been there

Nice rolling hills into Collingwood.

And here’s where it starts to get a little different.

Stopped at the Collingwood Bowling Alley for a tournament. Tried my best but only pulled off second place. Terry got first by 10 points!

Rolled out to Creemore and a great dinner at the Old Mill Restaurant. Extra mashed potatoes please. Most everyone else had a pint or two. Would have made me too sleepy with 150 km still to ride. Back to Collingwood and the Village at Blue Mountain. The cafe was closed so we got cappuccinos at a night club. Lights on at this point until the end of the ride.

Many of you have probably done the steep climb at Scenic Caves, but how many of you have done it at 11pm with 290 km in your legs? A nice climb and particularly amazing effort from Dave who rides a fixie. Put it back together up top. 6 riders together, with Sean and his wife Rene a couple of minutes back.

A big fog rolled in making visibility very poor. We made a turn off the main road, but Ali was just off the back and couldn’t see us turn, so he went straight. Figured it out in about 15 minutes, called us, and proceeded alone.

Stopping for the phone call split the group up a bit. Dave and John were off the front, Terry next, then Chappy and I coming up last. I tried to bridge up to Terry and found him nearly asleep on the bike, weaving back and forth. A bit of conversation woke him up and the group came back together in Chatsworth at 350 km.

Terry had Chappy and I follow him to the local BMO branch where we went in to the bank machine area and caught about 25 minutes of sleep. Fully recharged, we headed out for the last 50 km. A cold wet foggy finish. We sat down for a great breakfast and learned that Sean and Rene had to stop at about 330 km because Sean had a lot of hip pain due to his accident.

Kudos to Ali who proceeded alone through the night, using paper cue sheets for navigation and made it in 30 minutes before the cut-off time.

In Chappy’s words, this ride was unbelievable.

Tim (Mad Doc)

Devils Week 2015

Here’s the opportunity to get all your Paris-Brest-Paris qualifiers done in one week. We are offering four rides out of Markham so you can complete your series. The routes are all available in the Toronto Route Archive (http://randonneursontario.ca/routes/torroutes.html) and can be distinguished by the DW_ prefix on the name.

Woodville offers rolling hills through York and Durham regions. You may want to take the time for butter tarts in Little Britain

Carden Plain is a circumnavigation of Lake Simcoe though Newmarket, Barrie, and Orillia. Don’t miss on of Henk’s favourite Ontario attractions, the Kirkfield Lift Locks. (Seriously, they’re pretty cool.)

Oak Ridges Moraine traditionally starts in Erin Mills. For Devils Week, we’ve tweaked it a bit to start in Markham. For those that have done this ride before, this is a chance to see the Badlands in the daylight.

Haliburton Highlands is a tour of the cottage country north of Peterborough. Lakes and trees and rocks and water!

For those that are interested, accommodations are available at the Comfort Inn Toronto Northeast in Markham. The rate is $99 per night for both single or double occupancy. Contact the Comfort Inn directly at 1-866-477-6077 and reference CN278_Group.

All rides start at the Comfort Inn.

For more information, please contact Stephen Jones vp-toronto@randonneursontario.ca

On the other side of the world, the Kiwi Randonneurs had to get started early with their PBP qualifying rides with winter on the way so they ran their version in March.  They did their “Gran Turismo Series” over 8 days.  Here is a little taste: